Top 5 Things you are probably doing wrong with your phone - A cybersecurity perspective

Since the invention of the first smartphone in 1992, humanity has raced to acquire the latest gadgets on the market. Smartphone makers have equaled the challenge to satisfy a technology-hungry population that now accounts for over 6.5 billion smartphones globally. While this technology adoption has largely been beneficial to globalization and economic development, it has become a source of security risk. 

I previously wrote an article about the proliferation of mobile phone viruses and how to take care of them. Even so, old habits die hard. You still need to consider whether some of your tendencies make it easy for attacks and unauthorized access. Below are what I consider the most common mistakes people do with their smartphones to the delight of the bad guys;

1. Implementing easy device security settings

The first entry point to a smartphone is the screen lock that requires a pattern/pin/fingerprint/password to unlock. People assume that since they have little to lose or hide, they don't need to have strong device security. Thus, they end up having generic screen locks e.g., L-shaped patterns, predictable passwords such as own names, easy to guess pin codes such as 1234, 0000, and other repeated combinations. While such simple security settings are convenient, you could easily fall prey to familiar people who may know deep facts about you such as favorite numbers, words, and smartphone tendencies e.g. time and frequency of phone use. They may use such information to guess their way into your phones. 


  • Never leave screen locks blank or on swipe
  • Use hard to guess pin combinations
  • Prefer biometrics (fingerprint and eye scans) to other forms of screen lock
  • Use complex patterns
  • Combine pin with letters (in case that option is available)
  • Set the lock after timeout option to the least possible time (immediately or 5 seconds)
  • Scramble unlock layouts for the pin if available
  • Turn off popup on keypress and the briefly show passwords as you type options

2. Leaving Bluetooth, mobile data, and hotspot connectivity on

This is another most ignored mistake people commit with their smartphones. When you leave Bluetooth on, unauthorized devices could connect to your smartphone to initiate an illegal transfer of files especially if your device is set to automatically allow connections. Even when this may not happen, leaving Bluetooth on will broadcast your default device identity e.g. name, model, or MAC address. This will happen in case you didn't change the default settings. Getting your device information public may add to other people's OSINT. 

Leaving mobile data on could also allow for unwanted data usage in case data use is unrestricted for device applications. More so, if your phone is already infected by malware such as spyware, continuously leaving mobile data on could lengthen an attackers' communication with your device. If left on, the device hotspot could also broadcast your device details and announce your presence in a locality. Again, such information could be useful to an attacker gathering intelligence on mobile devices in an area. 


  • Turn off Bluetooth, mobile hotspot, and mobile data when not in use
  • Turn off network broadcasting for mobile hotspots so that it is not necessarily discoverable
  • Have the best security for your network (WPA2-Personal) and set complex passwords for device hotspot in case of intended prolonged use
  • Make sure the hotspot turns off automatically when no devices are connected

3. Installing junk applications 

Many people end up installing unnecessary applications out of curiosity than intended use. At the end of the day, your phone may host applications that duplicate functionality. For example, you may have two different image processing or document viewing applications  This tendency leads to depleted memory (both RAM and ROM) to cause slow device performance. Some of the applications may be from unauthorized sources hence increasing the chances of introducing malware to your device. 


  • Install only necessary applications
  • Install applications from official sources (AppStore and PlayStore)
  • Uninstall unused and redundant applications 
  • Use and prefer stock applications for your intended activities (e.g. native launchers, image viewers, and media players)
  • Use your app vendor's services to check for application safety 
  • Update outdated applications

4. Ignoring important software updates

This challenge also affects most smartphone users. You may be failing to regularly check for device updates that tend to improve firmware and core software running on your device. Whether it is an android or apple device, software updates provide the latest features and stability improvements. Failure to check for updates may cost you the benefit of enjoying better features and functionality as well as patches that may exist due to previously unseen bugs. 


  • Just like with PlayStore or AppStore, check for device updates regularly or turn on check for automatic updates. 
  • Purchase devices with guaranteed software update support

5. Having too many account set up

This is yet another big problem for smartphone users. You may for example hold four email accounts on your device on top of other social media and collaboration accounts. While the accounts may be serving unique purposes, too many of them could lead to password management problems and synchronization problems (if not set up properly). In the case that one account loses integrity, it could open an avenue for widescale compromise, especially where you have reused passwords. 


  • Set up only necessary accounts on your device e.g. email and social media accounts
  • Have unique login credentials for each account
  • Regularly check for account integrity 
  • Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) if possible
  • Allow for automatic app synchronization to update data across multiple devices


While everybody likes to have their smartphone serve their intended purpose, refusing to deliberately review the above five concern points may cause cybersecurity and general performance issues. From my experience with smartphones, the above five challenges will continue to persist among users. It is up to you to consciously optimize and protect your device by practicing safe device use. 

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